There’s a lot of trash talk out there about Generation Y people, which unfortunately savours strongly of ignorance or just plain lack of thought.

You’ll hear that Gen Ys need constant stimulation, how they can’t concentrate, they’re not genuinely creative, they think they’re work is great and it’s not, how if they can’t get promoted right this instant then they’re ready to walk out the door, yaddayaddda blah blah blah.  Most of it’s kak. Entirely untrue.

It is disappointing how little respect Gen Ys are afforded, especially due to the fact that if they are afforded a decent up-front dose of good old Aretha Franklin there ends up being very few problems with them.

In any case, what can we agree are the ways in wich Gen Ys are generally motivated, and what do they need in order to perform at their best?

The addage ‘give her responsibility and she’ll become more responsible’ is certainly a good one to remember, as is the phrase ‘give him respect and he’ll become more respectful’.

Gen Ys at home
Bearing in mind where most Gen Y individuals originate from socially is quite important.

Growing up as children Gen Ys have been on more of an equal footing with the senior significant others around them – parents, carers etc – much more than other generations. They have often shared the same preferences, orientation on things, the same music, movies etc with their parents moreso than any other generation ever.

Moreover, for various reasons they haven’t shown the tendency towards rebellion or a ‘need for differentiation’ from their parents as much as some other generations. To quite a significant degree I believe.

At home, not only did Gen Ys become accustomed to more of an equal footing with their parents in comparison to othe generations, but they have also been the unprecedented leaders of tech! The household’s veritable ‘bearer of gifts’ with their grasp of new technologies and skills in assisting others learn new concepts, methods, and of course gadgets.

In fact if you’re not sure whether a twenty- or thirty-something person is more ‘societally prescribed’ to Gen X or Gen Y (there is an unusually large grey area of overlap between X and Y), just ask them to show you how to do something on a computer… You’ll be able to tell the Gen X side person as s/he will take over and show you how they do it, whereas the Gen Y side will most likely be the one who let’s you do it hands-on yourself, comfortable to explain and respectfully correct as you fumble your way through it for the first and second time.

Admittedly though, the Gen Y side individual will most likely be the one to give up after they’ve explained something to someone three times.

Gen Ys in the workplace
Considering the different ways in which they were raised (or demanded to be raised) naturally, and hopefully as you can guess, Gen Ys don’t like the idea of unilateral decision-making by managers, dens of exclusivity or cronyism within or between groups, and games of conditional respect driven by age or length of tenure in the workplace.

Generation Ys crave 1-collaboration, 2-a flat dynamic in which they are respected as a kind of equal, and 3-being propelled by their seniors to their full potential.

Indeed we all want number 3, but Gen Ys need it and can’t really function properly in its absence, I believe.

This rigid requirement of Gen Ys, and perhaps Gen Ys themselves might seem selfish, but when you take a step back and note the lack of selfishness in their demeanour, their behaviour and how their identity is constructed, you realise “selfish” is the wrong word.

It’s self-empowerment that Gen Ys are all about.

And you’ll receive it from them in return if you’re prepared to give first.

And if you’re prepared drink a nice cold can of Humble and put yourself on a personal development plan at the same time as you put them on theirs, you’re onto a winner.

Keeping Gen Ys engaged
The mark of your authority is that when it comes to the Gen Y’s personal development plan it is you in charge 70% with them in charge 30%, and when it comes to your personal development plan, it’s also you in charge 70% with them in charge 30%.  You can easily hold ultimate status and sway by giving (and constantly building on) your knowledge and wisdom, and with your demonstrable ambition combined with your caring.

All of your ‘social assets’ in these areas will be almost always be over and above what they are capable of or mature enough to emulate. However with an equality-based dynamic in the general run-of-play the Gen Y subordinate will have and enjoy a good deal of equality and a real ‘say’ in how things function, as they work on their merry way towards their own personal success story, whatever and wherever that may be.

If Gen Ys are embraced in the right way there isn’t much need for concern that success and/or equality of status will in some way ‘go to their head’, because they are capable of being more mature than what many assume. Constantly remind yourself that, in part, they related to and learned from their own parents almost as siblings – they look across at seniors, not up.

If any Gen Y does get a bit ‘big for his boots’, or if they are found to be quite out of line in any way, all you simply need to is remove the love. An ignored Gen Y person will do anything to get back in your love circle.

No need for anger, punishment or embarrassment. Just feel genuinely disappointed and semi-spitefully remove the big L. As long as you have been fair in the lead up, explained yourself well, and have the upper hand in maturity across situations, practically all conflicts or challenges will end well.

You also have to let them tear a small strip off you every now and then – they quite often have a very good point, and letting them do so builds up emotional capital for when you will need it.

In sum
It’s a transparent, loving game of respect and want of connection and collaborative achievement.

Remove any and all barriers and distance between yourself and your Gen Ys, involve them in everything that you can, invite and include them into your thinking and into the strategy your implementation and your reasoning behind what you do, and overall make the continued effort to engage them.

If you are not highly capable at something/s, admit it, deal with it, involve them in it, and improve your output together – the same as you do when managing them.

All the while remembering to be yourself and not take yourself too seriously!

Speak with them at least once every fortnight one-on-one, remembering to ask them at least once per month how they think things can be improved AND how they think you can improve in the way you work with them.

It’s about having the open-mindedness and maturity for a few minutes each month to reverse the roles and give them the floor to also be judge, jury, and executioner.

When you’ve promised a Gen Y emloyee that you’ll have a catch-up with them with a certain regularity, and the time has come for you to have that catch-up with them but you don’t really feel up to it, and you can feel the vibe from them that they are annoyed you haven’t initiated the catch-up with them – catch up with them. Do it immediately. Even when you don’t want to. You’ll be glad you did.

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